By Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja
There is no greater challenge that we have today in Kenya than that of youth unemployment.
Between 2013 and 2015, as a nominated Member of Parliament, I focused on designing, drafting and pushing for a law that would create the National Employment Authority (NEA). The National Employment Authority was designed as an institution that would focus on the state of unemployment in Kenya.
Among other things, NEA was to establish job centres in all constituencies (using the Huduma Centre model) where unemployed youth would be able to go, register themselves with details of their qualifications and career aspirations, get soft skill trainings and have their details available nationally for both the public and private sector.
NEA was to work together with Academia (Universities and Technical Vocational Training Institutions), the private sector (employers) and the National Government to use the data they collect so as to ensure that training curriculum and courses offered are aligned to what the job market and the economy needs (Skills Matching).
Additionally, NEA was to spearhead a Labour Market Information System that would be a repository of all jobseekers and connect them with available opportunities both locally and internationally.NEA was also supposed to link students in institutions of higher learning with six months paid internship in government institutions as well as provide the policy for incentivising the private sector to also provide internships and jobs for young Kenyans with less than six months post training experience.
The dream was noble. We surely tried and did our best as legislators, the rest was for the implementors (The Executive) to do theirs. The day His Excellency the President assented to this bill was possibly my most fulfilling as a Member of Parliament. I was hopeful that the government would take this institution seriously and see it as an opportunity to streamline access to the job market as well as put their money where their mouth is with respect to youth employment.
I have severally expressed frustration with the slow pace of implementation of this institution and the seeming lack of goodwill to fully operationalise it. The leadership of such an institution would need a vision carrier with knowledge of the subject matter and with the passion to drive it especially at its inception.
It would need a board that would have the ability to understand our local context, benchmark with other such successful initiatives such as JobCentre Plus in the UK among many others internationally, and be able to liaise with and inspire the confidence of our private sector, academia, international markets and youth in bringing this dream to life.
The National Employment Authority Act therefore explicitly made provisions for the qualifications of the chairperson and members of the board with particular emphasis on experience in human resource management. The recent appointment of Mary Wambui Munene as chair of this institution goes against the specific provision of Section 10 (2) of the National Employment Authority Act as well as with the vision for this authority.
Section 10(2) (c) provides that a person shall be qualified to serve as the chairperson of the board if they have at least 7 years experience in Human Resource Management or its equivalent.
There are many young Kenyans who have distinguished themselves in the field of Human Resource Management both locally and even to the level of the International Labour Organizaiton (ILO).
Mary Wambui Munene is known to me, as we served together in the 11th Parliament as well as having been a member of The National Alliance party which I chaired.
I have confidence that she has the ability to serve Kenyans in a different capacity but not as the vision carrier and Chairperson of the National Employment Authority.
I, therefore, urge her to politely decline this particular appointment. I have further instructed my lawyers as well as those of the Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association to file a petition this morning seeking to quash this appointment.
The respondents of this suit are the cabinet secretary of labour, The Attorney General and Mary Wambui Munene. I still believe that the vision of this institution can be achieved. It must be achieved.